With a new decade now just days away, the Diocese of Scranton is beginning the process of taking a good look at the life of its parishes in order to project a future vision in response to God’s call.
On the second Sunday of Advent, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera delivered a homily by video to all parishes, in which he invited parishioners to begin the process of thinking about the challenges and opportunities that the next decade will present.
“What do we see when we look around us and confront changing realities in our world – in our society and in our church?” Bishop Bambera asked in his homily. “How are we called to respond in faithfulness to the Gospel values and to the promises of God in which we have placed our hope?”
Northeastern and north central Pennsylvania has experienced a number of changes that warrant this examination. In terms of demographics, an aging population and shifts in the make-up of some communities factor into the situation. The expected diminishment in the number of ordained priests that will be available to serve as full-time pastors will also play a part.
“Looking squarely at each of these and other realities impacting our present and future parish life, we must work together to create a manner of responding which is innovative, achievable and respectful of the mission that we have been given as baptized followers of Jesus,” Bishop Bambera said.
Unlike the process of consolidations that took place a decade ago that resulted in a radically different profile of parishes serving more than 250,000 Catholics, the bishop is simply asking parishioners to look at how we wisely use our resources.
“In engaging this process, while every parish is similar in what it’s been called to do and to be, each parish will respond in ways that are unique to its situation and circumstance. When faced with change, such as the retirement of a pastor, the need to address the condition of aging parish buildings or a diminishment of parishioners due to changing demographics, each parish will be asked to reflect upon and propose ways in which it can best move forward in a manner that continues to give life to our faith and to our responsibility as Christian disciples,” the bishop said.
Pastors and Parish Life Coordinators have already started the process of looking towards the future and are expected to broaden the conversation with parish leadership and all parishioners in the coming months.
“We continue to work very hard to foster vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life. We so desperately need the unique gifts of those who are called to these vocations within the Church, especially those of our priests. Yet, each of you, because of your baptism, also has a vocational calling to which we need you to respond,” Bishop Bambera said. “Your involvement in the life of the Church and in this process, more than anything else, will give us a vision into your particular parish and, in turn, will serve the needs of our Diocese as a whole.”